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THE CITY MADAM

A synopsis and brief history of the play by Philip Massinger

The following article is reprinted from A Dictionary of the Drama. W. Davenport Adams. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1904.

The City Madam, a comedy in five acts, by Philip Massinger, was licensed in 1632, but not printed till 1658. It had been acted at Blackfriars by the King's Company. "Luke Frugal, after leading the life of a prodigal, has become a recipient of his brother's charity. As such, he hypocritically assumes the character of a submissive and smooth-tongued dependant.... But he is suddenly subjected to the crucial test of the inheritance of all the wealth of his brother, who has pretended retirement to a monastery. He is now at once transformed into a monster of selfish avarice.... In the end, his brief dream of wealth and power of course collapses; while the trials to which they have been subjected effectually cure his brother's wife (the City Madam) and her daughters of their ridiculous pride and pretensions" (A.W. Ward). "This bitter satire against the city women for aping the fashions of the court ladies must have been peculiarly gratifying to the females of the Herbert family and the rest of Massinger's noble patrons and patronesses." The play is said to have been altered by Love, and produced by him at Richmond in 1771. It was revived in April, 1783, at Drury Lane, with Baddeley as Sir John Frugal, Palmer as his brother Luke, King as Plenty, Brereton as young Lacy, Mrs. Hopkins as Lady Frugal, and Miss Farren and Mrs. Brereton as Mary and Anne Frugal. Adapted by Sir James Bland Burgess, it was produced, under the title of Riches; or, The Wife and the Brother, at the Lyceum Theatre on February 3, 1810, with Raymond as Luke, Powell as Sir John Traffic (Frugal), Mrs. Edwin as Lady Traffic, and Miss Ray and Mrs. Orger as the sisters. It was revived at Sadler's Wells, in its original shape in October, 1844, with Phelps as Luke and Mrs. Warner as Lady Frugal; in September, 1852, with Phelps as Luke, G. Bennett as Sir John Frugal, H. Marston as Plenty, Barrett as young Lacy, and Mrs. Ternan as Lady Frugal; and in March, 1862, being the last piece produced by Phelps at this theatre.

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